Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Corrector Review 2020


Dark spots, blemishes, and acne scars can make us feel embarrassed about our skin and want to hide indoors all day.

I know this feeling as I’ve struggled with acne scars for many years.

Creams and serums (also called dark spot correctors) can often help with hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration.

ⓘ In this post, I’ll provide a complete review of Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer to find out if it’s worth your money!

Related: Best Vitamin C Serums for Hyperpigmentation

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Clinique Dark Spot Corrector Review
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Key Features

  • CL-302 Complex (Dianella Ensifolia)
  • Optimizer Serum (Gyokuro Extract)
  • Dual-Chamber Dispenser Design
  • Lightweight Gel Texture
  • Allergy-Tested, 100% Fragrance-Free
  • Dries Quickly (~2 minutes)


  • Corrects Uneven Skin Tone
  • Brightens Darks Spots & Acne Marks
  • Soothes Irritated & Dry Skin
  • Suitable for All Skin Types


  • Limited Research On Dianella Ensifolia
  • Issues With Dispenser Design
  • Many Customers Saw Better Results With Original DSC


The Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer (try saying that again!) is an updated version of the award-winning Clinique Dark Spot Corrector introduced in 2010. 

This product is intended to treat hyperpigmentation such as melasma, age spots, and acne scars. It also brightens your complexion and promotes more even skin tone.

Clinique Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer features the same prescription-strength formula with ingredients like:

  • Dianella Ensifolia: comparable to 4% hydroquinone
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside: a vitamin C derivative
  • Yeast Extract: has brightening properties
  • Gyokuro Extract: a specialty green tea from Japan that prevents dark spots

Customer reviews of this popular dark spot corrector have been mixed. 

Some people reported brighter skin, more even skin tone, and reductions in dark spots. However, others experienced issues with the bottle (pump stopped working). 

In addition, quite a few long-time customers preferred the original dark spot corrector (without the optimizer serum). For fans of the old version, we suggest the Clinique for Men Dark Spot Corrector which has an almost identical formulation.

Overall, the Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer is a high quality serum from a brand that continues to innovate with novel ingredients.

What is Clinique Dark Spot Corrector?

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The Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Solution & Optimizer is an updated version of the original Dark Spot Corrector.

The difference lies in the new Optimizer serum and a dual-chamber bottle that separates the two products.

To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to the original dark spot corrector as “Original DSC” and the new version as “DSC & Optimizer”.

Clinique launched the original DSC in 2010 claiming it could match the performance of 4% prescription-grade hydroquinone. The new DSC & Optimizer makes a similar claim.

Hydroquinone is a powerful skin lightening ingredient and often hailed as the “gold standard”. However, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has raised safety concerns over its potential link to cancer and exogenous ochronosis.

So how does Clinique achieve the same results as 4% hydroquinone?

The company credits its patented “CL-302 Complex”, a fancy marketing term for five key ingredients:

  • Dianella Ensinfolia: a plant extract high in antioxidants and clinically tested by Clinique to match 4% hydroquinone in fading dark spots from sun damage
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside: a vitamin C derivative that brightens and firms, while also protecting skin from free radical damage
  • Yeast Extract: has skin brightening properties
  • Salicylic Acid & Acetyl Glucosamine: exfoliates dead skin cells and improves skin texture

In addition, Clinique’s optimizer serum features:

  • Gyokuro Extract: a specialty green tea from Japan that contains caffeine and theanine (calms nerves)

What Makes Clinique Different?

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You might know about Clinique already. After all, the company has over 22,000 beauty consultants in department stores around the world.

But you might not know the story of how Clinique was started.

In 1967, Carol Phillips, a leading magazine editor, published an interview with Dr. Norman Orentreich, a renowned New York dermatologist. 

Dr. Orentreich proposed that a 3 step skincare routine (cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing) could “create great skin”.

This was shocking back then as people believed good genetics were responsible for great skin.

The article caught the attention of Estée Lauder (co-founder of beauty giant Estée Lauder) who recruited Phillips and Orentreich to launch Clinique in 1968.

Since then, Clinique has become a powerhouse, with bestsellers like the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion and Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel.

Clinique Dark Spot Corrector Ingredients

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The key ingredients in Clinique Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer include:

  1. Dianella Ensifolia
  2. Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C Derivative)
  3. Gyokuro Extract
  4. Yeast Extract
  5. Salicylic Acid & Acetyl Glucosamine

You can find the full ingredient list here.

1. Dianella Ensifolia

Dianella Ensifolia is a plant native to Southeast Asia and the main ingredient of the Clinique Dark Spot Corrector. 

Researchers at Clinique and Estée Lauder screened hundreds of plant species and found Dianella Ensifolia the most promising for treating hyperpigmentation.

Lab tests confirmed that extracts of Dianella Ensifolia could produce similar results to 4% prescription-grade hydroquinone in fading dark spots from suntans.

However, researchers were unable to test the plant’s effectiveness on more stubborn hyperpigmentation such as freckles and age spots, which are more difficult to treat.

2. Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C Derivative)

Vitamin C is one of the most studied ingredients with numerous benefits for your skin.

Vitamin C can brighten skin complexion by inhibiting melanin synthesis. Melanin is a pigment that determines our skin color and protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Vitamin C can stimulate collagen production to increase skin firmness. This reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps stabilize dangerous free radicals to prevent cell damage. This slows down premature aging and may protect against skin cancer.

Ascorbyl glucoside is a vitamin C derivative. Unlike L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C), ascorbyl glucoside is less potent as it must first be converted into pure vitamin C by the body.

Studies support the use of ascorbyl glucoside given its high antioxidant abilities compared to other vitamin C derivatives.


3. Gyokuro Extract

Gyokuro is a special type of green tea grown in Japan. Like most teas, it contains caffeine and theanine (calms nerves). 

The tea leaves are cultivated in a special way: 3 weeks prior to harvest, the leaves are covered by a dark cloth to slow photosynthesis and increase the level of caffeine and theanine.

According to Clinique, Gyokuro extract provides anti-irritant and antioxidant properties. This seems plausible as green tea is well-known for its health benefits. 

Tea extracts might also reduce hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanin synthesis.

In a study of four tea varieties, researchers found that black tea was the most effective at reducing tyrosinase activity (an enzyme required to create melanin). 

4. Yeast Extract

Yeast extract can also brighten skin tone by inhibiting melanin synthesis.

5. Salicylic Acid & Acetyl Glucosamine

Salicylic acid and acetyl glucosamine help exfoliate dead skin cells to improve skin texture.

Clinique Dark Spot Corrector Reviews

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While many people reported good results with this serum, quite a few long-time users actually preferred the old dark spot corrector. 

Here’s my theory on this issue.

The new DSC & Optimizer is only 50% dark spot corrector (the stuff that actually get rids of dark spots) with another 50% optimizer (the stuff that prevents dark spots). 

The original Clinique DSC was 100% dark spot corrector (without the optimizer) so it makes sense that it was faster and better at fading dark spots.

For fans of the old version, check out the Clinique for Men Dark Spot Corrector. It has an almost identical formulation to the original DSC and is the same price as DSC & Optimizer.

“Helped with uneven skin tone and redness”

“I never thought my skin was that uneven until I started using this product and saw how flawless my skin was without ANY makeup on! I even notice that my redness from acne is gone when I use this! I love the texture of this serum. I never have a problem with it interfering with my makeup. If you are looking for even flawless skin, this is the ONLY thing I would recommend.”

Influenster Reviewer

“Used to be a wonder… now it’s a solid meh”

“Before this new “optimizer” serum, I would see dark acne spots disappear within a few weeks. Now, I’ve gone through an entire bottle and I’m just not impressed. It made my skin softer than before but it’s definitely not the product I’d go to for evening out anything. Used to be a wonder of a product that I’d recommend to everyone, but now it’s a solid meh.”

Sephora Reviewer

“Pretty expensive… it’s not worth the cost”

“I think Clinique used to have another version of this several years ago; I had purchased that other version and had a lot of success with it, but I think it was discontinued and replaced with this product. Over the last several months I have developed a lot of acne around my chin and jawline, and so I was really expecting to see a change given the success I had with that other Clinique product. This serum had a minimal impact on my skin, and I used it CONSISTENTLY. Some of the scars did become slightly lighter, but the difference was really slight. I was also hoping that since it has some salicylic acid in it, it would have an effect on my acne, but it did not. On top of that, this serum is pretty expensive. To me, it’s not worth the cost. I am seeing a MUCH more substantial difference in my acne scarring using the Amazonian bentonite clay mask – that stuff really works!”

MakeupAlley Reviewer

My Verdict on Clinique Dark Spot Corrector

I hope you enjoyed my Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector review.

This is an excellent addition to your skincare routine that helps brighten dark spots, fade acne scars, and soothe irritated skin.

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